Islet Autotransplantation Program Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Many MUSC patients experiencing pain relief

In March 2009, for the very first time, MUSC treated a pancreatitis patient with a total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation. After years of suffering from chronic pain and nausea, our first patient remains insulin free and on minimal pain medications today. Since that first patient, we have treated more than 30 others with this procedure. We have seen excellent results, with most of our patients tapering down on their long term pain medications. A third of our patients are insulin free and another quarter are on minimal amounts of daily insulin.

Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas where the pancreas becomes scarred and damaged over time, resulting in severe, debilitating pain for patients affected. While many patients are treated well with medications or endoscopy procedures, select patients with pain from chronic pancreatitis are best treated with surgery to remove most or all of the pancreas. While this is an excellent means of pain relief, the patient is inevitably left with long term diabetes, which can be very difficult to manage.

A procedure can be performed, however, where the patient’s removed pancreas is processed in a lab and the islet cells, which are the cells that make insulin, are returned back to the patient within several hours of surgery. The cells are infused into the liver, where they begin to make insulin within one to two weeks after surgery, to help prevent long term severe diabetes. This procedure, called islet autotransplantation, requires special facilities and is available at only a handful of centers in the world.

video iconDownload MUSC Patient Guide for Pancreatic Islet Cell Autologous Transplant Program (970KB)

Our program is proudly growing, with patients treated from all over the Southeastern United States. Given our long history of managing patients with chronic pancreatitis, we are well poised for this program here at MUSC's Digestive Disease Center. We have a strong interdisciplinary patient care team, consisting of our gastrointestinal surgeons, gastroenterologists, psychologists, endocrinologists, interventional radiologists, and pain management nurse specialists.

We look forward to helping more patients with this difficult disease process. We expect our experience will contribute to a better understanding of chronic pancreatitis and the development of new therapies to treat the disease. We also hope that our experience can help in the advancement of new therapies for patients with diabetes.

For more information about the islet autotransplantation program at MUSC, please call (843) 876-0420.